Videodrome is the 1983 Canadian cult classic directed by David Cronenberg. James Woods stars as Max Renn, the president of a Toronto based Cable TV station, CIVIC-TV, known for its provocative and alternative choices in programming. Max is introduced to a pirated broadcast from Malaysia known as Videodrome, a seemingly pointless show in which ordinary people are tortured, raped and supposedly murdered on screen. Max is immediately drawn to what he sees and requests that any subsequent broadcasts be recorded for his viewing pleasure.
Max meets Nicki, a psychiatric radio host, on a late night talk show, and is immediately attracted to her. They become physically involved and during a late night meeting at Max’s apartment Nicki is shown one of the Videodrome tapes. She is aroused and pleased by what she sees and seduces Max into sex while watching an episode.
Max learns from his coworker that the Videodrome signal which appeared to be coming from Malaysia is in fact being broadcast out of Pittsburgh. When Max shares this news with Nicki, she immediately makes plans to go there in hopes of appearing on the show. Max attempts to stop her for fear of her getting hurt, but she refutes his efforts. Not hearing from Nicki for some time, Max turns to an underground connection of his to help discover more about these broadcasts. We learn that Videodrome is not faked and is actually part of a larger plot involving the government. We also discover that excessive viewings of these broadcasts can have harmful and strange side effects to the viewer. Because of Max’s repeated exposure to Videodrome, he begins to hallucinate and starts questioning what is real and what is fake.
Without giving too much away to spoil the ending, let’s just say the story deals with government conspiracies, fatal brain tumors and a man’s torso that turns into a VCR. Yes, you read that last part right. While at times the movie can be a little bit of a slow burn, the special effects and makeup are top notch. Some of the hallucinations lead to some very impressive visuals including one scene involving a TV set that appears to breathe or another where a VCR tape looks to be made out of human flesh. A little heavy and grim for some people’s tastes, and a little off the beaten path when one considers what normally constitutes a “horror movie”, Videodrome is a trip well worth taking. A journey that will take you to the edge of madness and back, while probably making you scratch your head a few times at some of the things you witness along the way. One of Cronenberg’s finest movies and one that definitely painted an interesting picture about civilization’s addiction to violence on TV so many years ago.